MIAMI HEAT PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Love them or hate them, but the Miami Heat are coming back for another NBA season. In fact, there may not have been a team happier than Miami the day the lockout officially ended. This is essentially the same squad that lost in the NBA finals last year after winning 58 regular-season games and being heavy playoff favorites. The addition of LeBron James was a big boost to the Heat last season, as he led them in scoring. The stellar play of LeBron, along with Dwyane Wade, helped the Heat down the stretch and into the post season. Chris Bosh, (the forgotten of the Big Three), also did his part in his first season in Miami. The Heat will have a few newcomers this season, most notably veteran wing player Shane Battier Ė an excellent defender and shooter - and took a low-cost flyer on Eddy Curry hoping heíll be able to back up Joel Anthony. The team will also have starting PG Mario Chalmers back. However, the Heat will not have Mike Miller to start the season after he underwent hernia surgery. The oft-injured Miller missed over 40 games last season; it appears heís picking up where he left off. The Heat will also have a few quality bench players returning, such as Juwan Howard and three-point specialist, James Jones. Though it may not seem like the Heat upgraded their roster much this season, they do have lots of depth. Head coach Erik Spoelstra now has many potential lineups, which may take away from some of the extensive playing-time pressure that LeBron and Wade faced last year. All in all, the Heat should be an eager and hungry team this year, on the prowl for redemption. The depth of the team, along with the dominance of the Big Three, will once again make Miami an NBA favorite to win it all this season.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
It goes without saying that Wade, James and Bosh are going to start and get a heavy workload. This is going to be similar to last year, as they were the three leaders in MPG for the Heat. LeBron and Wade should each see 37-40 minutes per game, while Bosh should average slightly less. Along with the Big 3, Mario Chalmers is likely to start at point guard again and see around 22-25 minutes. However, with this great offensive Heat team, Chalmers wonít really have a ďtraditionalĒ point guard role. Although Joel Anthony might be the starting center, heíll only log about 20 minute a game. If Udonis Haslem can stay healthy, heíll play about 25 minutes a game. Eddy Curry will battle for minutes at center as well. The Heat would like to give Mike Miller a heavy workload, but he wonít be ready for the start of the season. Therefore, especially at the beginning of the year, look for Shane Battier to log some fairly decent minutes. He should play about 25 minutes a game. Other players who will get some minutes off the bench this season include Juwan Howard, James Jones, Eddie House and rookie guard Norris Cole.
Joel Anthony: Being undersized (6-9, 245) Anthony makes up for his lack of size with his physicality and shot blocking. He averaged 1.2 blocks and 3.6 boards in just 19.5 minutes per game last year. Anthony lacks any real scoring ability, but could see some open looks with the threat of the Big Three lurking. Look for Anthony to compete for the starting job this year in Miami and hopefully improve his numbers.
Eddy Curry: Curry signed with the Heat this off-season, thus giving the often-overweight center another chance in the NBA. The 4th pick of the 2001 draft, Curry has found himself in and out of the league since 2008. If he can get in shape for the Heat and stay that way, look for him to provide height to an undersized team.
Dexter Pittman: Pittman is supposedly in much better shape coming in to his second year in the NBA. The 6-11, 308 center appeared in only 2 games for the Heat last season, but will be looking to contribute more in 2012.
LeBron James: LeBron James might have been the most hated player in the NBA last season, but that didnít hurt his numbers. During his first year in Miami, James averaged 26.7 PPG, 7.0 assists, 7.5 boards and even grabbed 1.6 steals. Those were exceptional numbers, especially considering many were worried about him sharing stats with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Some thought the chip on Lebronís shoulder could not have gotten much bigger, but perhaps losing in the NBA finals last season did the trick. Look for James to continue to put up stellar numbers and be a top fantasy performer this season.
Chris Bosh: Unlike LeBron, Bosh actually did lose fantasy value when he was shipped to Miami to be the third option in the Big Three. He averaged only 18.7 PPG last season, compared to 24.0 PPG the year before. His rebounding also took a hit, as he averaged 8.3 rebounds, his lowest total since his rookie season. Bosh will continue to post very solid fantasy stats for this high-scoring Heat offense, but make sure you keep your expectations in check.
Mike Miller: The Heat could have really used Mike Miller down the stretch last season. Unfortunately for Miami, the often-injured Miller found himself hurt again and missed more than 40 games. The 6-8 sharp-shooter did average 5.6 PPG and 4.5 rebounds in only 41 games for the Heat, though. The hope in Miami is that Miller can stay healthy, as he can play many positions and stretch the floor with his shooting ability.
Shane Battier: Miami acquired Battier this off-season and will look for him to provide leadership and depth in the forward position. The 11th-year-veteran finished out last season in Memphis, averaging 5.0 PPG and 4.0 rebounds in only 23 games. Battier is often known for being a leader on the court, but he could be a more active scorer this year. Look for him to have many open looks and see his share of opportunities for Miami this season.
Udonis Haslem: The Heat really missed Haslem last year, as he only played in 13 games after sustaining a serious foot injury. In those games played, Haslem averaged 8.0 PPG and 8.2 rebounds in only 26.5 minutes of playing time. Miami lacks size and depth amongst their forwards and centers, so they really hope Haslem can stay healthy this season. If thatís the case, Haslem could possibly average close to a double-double.
James Jones: Jones will return to the Heat this season for his 4th-straight year with the team. Jones posted some fairly impressive numbers last season while filling in for Miller, but the addition of Battier could push him back into a specialistís role.
Juwan Howard: Howard, a 38-year-old veteran big man, will return to the Heat this season after appearing in 57 games last year. He averaged 2.4 PPG, 2.1 rebounds and will look to provide depth off the bench for Miami.
Dwyane Wade: Those who feared Wade would have his statistics decline last year were wrong. Even after Miami acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Wade was still one of the most dominant fantasy players. Wade once again was one of the top scorers in the league, as he averaged 25.5 PPG. However, Wade is much more than just a scorer. He averaged 4.6 assists and managed to grab 6.4 rebounds, his career high in that category. Wade is even good for a steal and a block per game, so look for him to continue his fantasy dominance this year.
Mario Chalmers: The Heat look forward to having Chalmers back this season after re-signing him to a 2-year deal. Chalmers, a fourth-year point guard and former Kansas Jayhawk, averaged 6.4 PPG, 2.5 assists and grabbed 1.1 steals for the Heat last season. He will likely take on the starting point guard role and will hopefully be a better compliment to the Big Three this year around.
Norris Cole: Rookie Norris Cole will make his NBA debut this season for the Heat. Cole, who was drafted out of Cleveland State, looks to have some relevance at the point guard position for Miami. The older-than-usual rookie (23-years-old), will likely play from the bench, but could see some minutes with his ability to shoot the 3-pointer.
Eddie House: House will be back with the Heat this season, even though he is expected to miss the first few weeks after undergoing knee surgery. The 12th-year-veteran played in 56 games last season for Miami and averaged 6.5 PPG. He will likely continue to provide the Heat with that ďsparkĒ they need off the bench.
Shane Battier: The signing of Shane Battier was a significant deal for the Heat. Not only is he a leader, but he also has potential to have some real fantasy relevance. If Battier makes the most of his opportunities (and he will be wide open at times), he could average close to 10.0 PPG and five rebounds.
Mike Miller: Unfortunately for Mike Miller, injuries have always seemed to plague him throughout his career. He only played in 41 games last season and will reportedly miss the first 6-8 weeks of this season after undergoing surgery for a hernia. This guy just canít seem to catch a break. The signing of Shane Battier in Miami canít help much either.